Frankly Fix It - St. Francis of Assisi
Fr. Ed Benioff - Added on Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Frankly Fix It- Saint Francis of Assisi


God has an amazing sense of humor.


A young man named Francis di Bernardone found that out one autumn day in 1205. An earnest seeker, Francis had just experienced a deep spiritual conversion. He wanted a word from God about what to do next.


So he ducked into a church to pray. The little Church of St. Damian, in Francis’ hometown of Assisi, was dilapidated. The roof was leaking, and the walls were crumbling.


The interior was dominated by a large painted image of Jesus on the cross. Francis looked to Jesus as he prayed for light.


He wanted a word from God, and he got one. From the cross Jesus said to him: “Francis, go and repair my house which, as you see, is falling completely into ruin.”


There was no mistaking the message, because Jesus said it not just once or twice, but three times.


At least it seemed clear to Francis.


So he went out and got building materials. He gathered stones with his own hands, and he sold his possessions so he could afford mortar and lumber.


Francis quit his day job, infuriating his father, so that he could devote himself full-time to his God-given task. And when he completed the work at St. Damian, he turned his attention to other nearby churches that had become fixer-uppers.


Then God led him to understand what he’d really meant when he said “repair my house which … is falling completely into ruin.”


God didn’t mean just the little local church with the leaky roof. He meant the universal Catholic Church — a task of a vastly different order. Jesus had repeated the direction again and again, but Francis just didn’t get it.


The Church in 1205 was a mess. It was shamed by scandals and riven by dissension. Rogue clergy routinely broke their vows and ignored the Church’s discipline. Many bishops, for their part, lived mainly as landlords, growing fat off the Church’s holdings. The poor suffered without hope. Many ordinary people, ignorant of the Gospel, were turning to weird occult heresies and superstitions.


And that was not a local phenomenon. It was widespread. God wanted Francis to do something about it.


Now, Francis was not exactly Nobody from Nowhere. His father was a wealthy merchant in the town of Assisi. But that hardly gave Francis a platform for Churchwide reform. A few miles outside Assisi, Francis’ family name meant nothing.


Francis’ predicament would seem tragic if it weren’t so comical. Francis heard God’s call as something manageable and doable. God issued the call, however, as something impossible, at least for a young guy from the hill country.


The truth, however, is that Francis of Assisi did repair the (capital-C) Church. He founded the Franciscan movement, which helped so many suffering people to turn once again to Jesus. By his example, his preaching and his poetry, he inspired Christians to recover the Gospel values of poverty, purity, and prayer. By modeling true devotion, he showed up the sham of false devotion and superstition.


We live so many years after St. Francis of Assisi. Yet, like Francis, we find ourselves in a Church whose walls need shoring, whose people need healing, whose roof needs repair.


For good reason our current pope has chosen the name of the man who repaired St. Damian’s Church. But the task of repair is not his alone. It is yours and mine, and it is our call from Jesus Christ. Like Francis of Assisi, we should act locally, but in our prayer we should think globally, in union with Catholics everywhere, in union with the pope.


This is the task of the New Evangelization. Impossible? Nothing will be impossible with God (Luke 1:37).

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